Source: Browns Player Hurt in Extra Drill
A source with direct knowledge of the incident confirmed that the injury happened during the "opportunity drill" period -- a post-practice time when Mangini puts practice squad players and rookies through additional drills to give them the chance to impress coaches.
Browns running back James Davis suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during opportunity drills earlier this year, and ESPN reported that it happened while Davis wasn't wearing pads and the player who hit him was. Mangini and the Browns deny the no-pads charge, and were exonerated by the NFL in the Davis matter on Oct. 23, but Browns players have continued to grumble that something was amiss that day. And the fact that another player has been injured during the so-called opportunity period (though FanHouse's source said everybody was wearing pads Thursday) is only going to strengthen the belief around the team that Mangini's famously tough coaching methods are exposing the players to unnecessary risk.
"We'll look into it," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said Thursday night.
Mangini has been the subject of much controversy during his first season as Browns coach. He received national attention for forcing his players to take an abnormally long bus trip during training camp and for fining a player $1,701 for failing to report a $3 water bottle on his hotel bill. These controversies, combined with the Browns' 1-7 record, have made it a rocky year. Cleveland recently fired GM George Kokinis, who had been Mangini's hand-picked choice for GM, and Browns owner Randy Lerner is actively looking for a "football czar" to oversee the team's operations a la Bill Parcells in Miami, leading to speculation that Mangini's job could be in jeopardy.
Mangini did return a phone call seeking comment late Thursday night but declined to comment for this story.
When the Davis situation happened earlier this year, Mangini was asked about the concept of the opportunity drills in general, and he defended them as a chance for young players who don't get to drill during the team's regular plays in practice to work directly with the coaching staff. He also said they were always supervised and a "controlled environment."
"I've been part of this everywhere I've been," Mangini said then. "Usually the rookies stay out, the young guys stay out. Often times, other guys will stay out if they want to. It's not limited to those guys, other people are welcome too, but it's nice because it gives them really focused attention. It's designed to help them have the best chance to bump up."
Mangini cites Tom Brady as an opportunity-drill success story, and points out that linebacker Marcus Benard recently jumped from the Browns' practice squad to the 53-man roster after starring in opportunity drills. And he's not the only coach who does them. It's a Bill Belichick coaching tree thing, apparently, that's done in places like Miami, Kansas City, Denver and has been going on in Cleveland since Belichick coached there in the early 1990s.
But some players have grumbled that players are pressured into the drills, and that they sometimes can feel like punishment. There was some sentiment among Browns players Thursday that the opportunity period was run out of anger over Lewis' comments from earlier in the day, in which he suggested that the length and intensity of the Browns' practices was part of the reason for poor Sunday results.